This class is a broadly interdisciplinary, thematically integrated, study of how Iceland’s geology and natural resources have influenced sustainable agricultural and renewable energy practices and the ways in which these topics are interpreted to the public through tourism. Climate change is impacting Iceland’s tourism industry by melting iconic glaciers, altering sensitive alpine tundra and ecosystem function, and the need to reduce carbon emissions has spurred a significant investment in making Iceland energy independent. Drawing on the expertise of the two instructors, this course will examine these geological and ecological changes, along with the contemporary responses of the Icelandic people and tourism industry. Students will be introduced to the science of climate change, the history of the Icelandic people, and how their cultural identity has evolved to one of self-sufficiency and stewardship, developing a populace conducive to environmental solutions. Moreover, students will gain fieldwork skills including the collection of interviews to enhance their understanding of contemporary Icelandic responses to climate change. Through discussions with Icelanders, students will be able to better understand people’s feelings and reactions to climate change and compare these responses to American perceptions.
In tandem, students will explore the distribution, abundance and biotic interactions of plants and animals and their unique ecophysiological adaptations to life in the rigorous high latitude arctic tundra environments of Iceland. Students will learn about the distributions of plants and animals and study the processes and interactions that are the foundation to ecology in arctic and alpine environments. Emphasis is placed on the processes that organize communities including drivers of global climate, and the complex interrelationships of biotic and abiotic interactions, including natural and human components as modifiers of system dynamics, and how those processes affect arctic and alpine systems.
Travel Abroad: Students taking part in this class will spend the first week in the regular class time learning about and preparing for the trip to Iceland. This week will include lectures, research project development, films, and logistical planning. During the second and third weeks of class students will travel as a group throughout Iceland, led by their faculty and a professional tour guide. Academically, we will focus on the glacial geology, alpine ecology, natural resources, climate impacts, and sustainable practices of the places we visit. Students will learn firsthand the value of place-based study that braids physical science with local knowledge to reveal how the history and culture of Iceland has shaped an eco-ethos. Students will gain hands-on training in semi-structured interviews during their study abroad. The collection of personal interviews will enhance their understanding of the worldview of Icelanders. During the last week of class, students will finalize their independent research projects. This will include a photo journal, reflection essay, and final written research report on a topic of students’ choice (major-related) which will inform their public presentation.
*GEO 101 Introduction to Geology (for all but Elementary Education majors)
*GEO 103 Introduction to Environmental Geology
*ENSC 191 Environmental Sustainability
*BIOO 101 Survey of Wildlife and Habitats
GEO 255 Environmental Research Writing
GEO 230 Geology of the American West
GEO 378 Surficial Processes
NRSM 441 Sustainable Resource Management
BIOE 416 Alpine Ecology
ENST 492 Independent Study
* General Education Substitutions
Instructor: Dr. Spruce Schoenemann and Wendy Ridenour
Time: Spring 2019, Block 7. Block course, with a study abroad component in weeks 2 and 3 of the course (all day including pre/post travel class meetings)